When tough times lead to a heart that feels hashtag blessed

There are certain talents I have that aren’t very applicable to my actual life.

You know, like being able to sing the alphabet backward faster than I can sing it forward.

As I was sitting and staring out at the ocean (one of my all-time favorite pastimes) the other day, I was thinking about how thankful I am that God brought me out to California. Of all of the places in the world He could have called me, it’s here—this place of wonder that brings me peace, energy, and the occasional dorsal fin sighting.

My New Kids on the Block shirt and I really love it out here.

In all honesty, I never saw such a big and risky move coming and wouldn’t have done it if the plans I had wanted to happen and prayed for constantly actually came true. I didn’t understand at the time why God wasn’t doing what I wanted Him to do, but it’s very clear to me now that He had something entirely different—and entirely better—for me planned. And I’m also appreciative that the whole “pack up your life and move to California” thing came on so quickly and took me by complete surprise.

Because I needed to endure the tough times I faced without knowing what was ahead.

On that same day that I was down by the water and reflecting on those bits of gratitude, there was a car show going on at that beach at the same time. I had noticed it when I got there (I mean, it was pretty hard to miss), but I had no intention of checking out the cars. I was just there to soak up some sunshine and watch the waves. When I left, I stopped at the basketball court area where the car show was to dust the sand off of my feet before putting on my sandals. I was sort of in the way of a guy trying to get pictures of a car at what appeared to be some artsy angles, and then he started talking to me.

Guy fascinated by cars: Did you get in the water?
Me: No way. It’s too cold.
GFBC: But it’s so hot and nice out today.
Me (still amazed by what people out here consider “hot”): Yeah, but the water is still like 4 degrees.
GFBC: Well, did you check out the cars?
Me: No, I’m only here for the ocean. (You know, the ocean that I don’t actually get in.)
GFBC: But they’re right here, and how often do you get a car show like this?
Me: I see cars all the time. I drive one.
GFBC: But how often do you see cars on the beach like this? And these are classics!
Me: I’m not that interested in cars. I just like when they work.
GFBC: I don’t know how to respond to that.
Me: Welp, see you later. Enjoy your day!

It turns out that we’re all thankful for different things.

This is my friend Monique, who invited me to a BBQ with no actual BBQ. I need to educate these people on what such an event entails.

What I didn’t explain to that guy that day was why the beach is so significant in my life—that it’s been a constant reminder of God’s love for me. That I stare out at the vast, expansive ocean and am reminded that I am valued. That I am loved. That I matter. It’s the beautiful destination of a journey that I haven’t always been so thankful to endure but that I’m incredibly grateful for now.

For him, maybe cars have something to do with everything he’s faced in life. Or maybe he just really likes them. I probably should have asked him. Regardless, he has a reason to find happiness from a car show on the beach.

I had a conversation the other day with my friend JP, and she was talking about working toward goals with the end already in mind. She mentioned how, in order to make it to that place you want to reach, you have to take all of the steps in between to get there. As she put it, “you can’t go from A to Z without going through all of the other letters in the alphabet.”

Ohhhhh OK. That’s a gooooooood word, sister.

JP is right—you can’t just snap your fingers and end up where you want to be. We’re not all Sabrina the Teenage Witch. And you’re not always going to know what letters B through Y have in store for you before you get to Z. You simply have to keep going with the hope and faith that you will eventually get to where you need to be. It’s going to hurt sometimes, but getting to that ultimate place your heart desires will be worth the pain you face. For me, it involved heartache and rejection. It involved doubt. It involved fear. It involved insecurities and anxiety. It involved more tears than I ever even knew I was capable of crying.

This sums up how I feel.

But it all resulted in joy and a shift in my heart that changed my life forever.

Not every day is going to be wonderful. People are going to disappoint you. Your sports teams are going to let you down (I’m looking at all three of you, Mavs, Cowboys, and Rangers). Pain is going to inflict itself upon you when you least expect it. Don’t let those troubles stop you, though. Whether she realized it or not, JP quoted the great Dory when she said “I don’t know, maybe the only thing to do right now is to just keep swimming.” I encourage you to do the same—just keep swimming.

Through the pain. Through the broken hearts. Through the doubts. Through the fears. Through the disappointments. Through the tears. Through every bad thing that ever comes your way. Just keep swimming.

And trust that your heart will one day be thankful for the hardships it had to endure.

#noregrets—advice from a guy on a plane

I know it’s trite to say, but I truly believe that everything happens for a reason.

Especially when it involves the person you sit next to on an airplane.

My friend Amanda and I went on a trip to San Diego over the weekend, and we ended up catching an earlier flight home (so that we wouldn’t get home super late on a Sunday night), so we weren’t sitting near each other on the plane. Instead, I wound up next to some guy named Chris.

I started talking to him a little before the flight took off, and we discussed a variety of different things pertaining to our individual lives. He gave me a lot of great advice, but one thing he said to me really stuck with me: When you’re young, and you’re single, let your heart take you where it needs to go—because you don’t want to look back years from now and regret that you didn’t take enough chances.

And it was exactly what I needed to hear.

(By the way, I never told homeboy I’m single. I think I just have an aura about me.)

I’ve made some recent decisions that I’m currently pursuing, and not everyone thinks they’re good ideas. For me, I firmly believe they’re right for right now. I know every decision we make—even the small ones—can impact our lives in huge ways, but sometimes the decision not to do something can be even more significant.

And I don’t want to live in regret.

I’ve mentioned before all of the times I haven’t let guys know how I feel, and I’ve never won their hearts. I’m not saying they all would have fallen madly in love with me if I had said something, but I also don’t know what would have happened—and sometimes I wonder.

What if I had taken a chance and shared my heart? What if I had been brave in a moment when I really wanted to be brave, rather than let that moment pass by? What if I had trusted my heart? What if I had done something that was not quite in the realm of the comfort zones I’m so used to at this point?

And I’m not a fan of living in the Land of What If.

Even this trip with Amanda was sort of an on-a-whim thing. I wanted a little getaway to San Diego, and she loves that city and was gung-ho about going. We somewhat spontaneously booked the flights and got the rest of the details of the trip in place. No, it wasn’t the wisest financial decision I’ve ever made, but I’m OK with that.

Because it was totally worth it.

This was right before our cartwheels in the sand. I’m pretty sure we both pulled muscles (aging sucks), but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

It’s one of those trips I’ll look back on and be really glad I took it. First, if you’ve ever spent any time with Amanda, you’d understand why. She’s one of the greatest people I know and an ideal travel buddy. Second, it was a needed escape for a little bit to somewhere I love: the beach. The beach brings me a lot of peace and clarity, especially when I can sit for a while on a lifeguard stand and just stare out at the seemingly unending ocean water (which we made sure to do on this trip, of course).

Chatting with Chris at the end of the trip was truly what I needed with my heart full of hope and mind full of anxiety that I’ve had lately. I needed the change of flights, and I needed to chat with this guy.

And I think God knew that and put us both on that particular row on that particular flight.

I will say that Chris didn’t want to be my BFF or anything—no one was sitting in the window seat (yes, Amanda and I could have sat on the same row, but discussing that would involve the angry face emoji), and he suggested I scoot over and sit there. I contend it’s because he’s a little bit of a larger man and needed more space and arm room. I mean, he gave me his business card and offered to buy me a sandwich on the plane, so I don’t think my presence or talkative personality repelled him that much.

He did, however, remind me that I definitely want to live my life without singing Hanson’s great “If Only.” You can only sit along the shoreline for so long until you realize it’s time to run into the water or do a cartwheel in it, regardless of how cold it feels.

Because sometimes that chilly water is exactly what you need to set your heart on fire.